Indeed, despite promises to the public to do everything to "wipe out cancer in your lifetime," the ACS fails to make its voice heard in Congress and the regulatory arena. Instead, the ACS has repeatedly rejected or ignored opportunities and requests from Congressional committees, regulatory agencies, unions, and environmental organizations to provide scientific testimony critical to legislate and regulate a wide range of occupational and environmental carcinogens. This history of ACS unresponsiveness is a long and damning one:
This abysmal track record on prevention has been the subject of periodic protests by both independent scientists and public interest groups. A well publicized example was a New York City January 23, 1984 press conference, sponsored by Dr. Samuel S. Epstein and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The press release stated:
A group of 24 scientists charged that the ACS was doing little to protect the public from cancer-causing chemicals in the environment and workplace. The scientists urged ACS to revamp its policies and to emphasize prevention in its lobbying and educational campaigns.
The scientists, who included Matthew Meselson and Nobel laureate George Wald, both of Harvard University; former OSHA director Eula Bingham; Samuel Epstein; and Anthony Robbins, past president of the American Public Health Association, strongly criticized the ACS for insisting on unequivocal human proof that a substance is carcinogenic before it will recommend its regulation.
By 1992, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the ACS was "more interested in accumulating wealth than in saving lives." Fundraising appeals routinely stated that the ACS needed more funds to support their cancer programs, all the while holding more than $750 million in cash and real estate assets.
A 1992 article in the Wall Street Journal by Thomas DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College and veteran investigator of nonprofit organizations, revealed that the Texas affiliate of the ACS owned more than $11 million worth of assets in land and real estate, as well as more than fifty-six vehicles, including eleven Ford Crown Victorias for senior executives and forty-five other cars assigned to staff members. Arizona's ACS chapter spent less than 10 percent of its funds on direct community cancer services. In California, the figure was 11 percent, and under 9 percent in Missouri.
Thus for every $1 spent on direct service, approximately $6.40 is spent on compensation and overhead. In all ten states, salaries and fringe benefits are by far the largest single budget items, a surprising fact in light of the characterization of the appeals, which stress an urgent and critical need for donations to provide cancer services. Nationally, only 16 percent or less of all money raised is spent on direct services to cancer victims, like driving cancer patients from the hospital after chemotherapy, and providing pain medication.
Most of the funds raised by ACS go to pay overhead, salaries, fringe benefits, and travel expenses of its national executives in Atlanta. They also go to pay Chief Executive Officers, who earn six-figure salaries in several states, and the hundreds of other employees who work out of some 3,000 regional offices nationwide. The typical ACS affiliate, which helps raise the money for the national office, spends more than 52 percent of its budget on salaries, pensions, fringe benefits, and overhead for its own employees.
Salaries and overhead for most ACS affiliates also exceeded 50 percent, although most direct community services are handled by unpaid volunteers. DiLorenzo summed up his findings by emphasizing the hoarding of funds by the ACS.
If current needs are not being met because of insufficient funds, as fund-raising appeals suggest, why is so much cash being hoarded? Most contributors believe their donations are being used to fight cancer, not to accumulate financial reserves. More progress in the war against cancer would be made if they would divest some of their real estate holdings and use the proceeds -- as well as a portion of their cash reserves -- to provide more cancer services.
Aside from high salaries and overhead, most of what is left of the ACS budget goes to basic research and research into profitable patented cancer drugs.
The current budget of the ACS is $380 million and its cash reserves approach one billion dollars. Yet its aggressive fund-raising campaign continues to plead poverty and lament the lack of available money for cancer research, while ignoring efforts to prevent cancer by phasing out avoidable exposures to environmental and occupational carcinogens. Meanwhile, the ACS is silent about its intricate relationships with the wealthy cancer drug, chemical, and other industries.
A March 30, 1998 Associated Press Release has shed unexpected light on questionable ACS expenditures on lobbying. National Vice President for federal and state governmental relations Linda Hay Crawford admitted that the ACS was spending "less than $1 million a year on direct lobbying." She also admitted that over the last year, the society used 10 of its own employees to lobby. "For legal and other help, it hired the lobbying firm of Hogan & Hartson, whose roster includes former House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-IL)." The ACS lobbying also included $30,000 donations to Democratic and Republican governor's associations. "We wanted to look like players and be players," explained Crawford. This practice, however, has been sharply challenged. The AP release quotes the national Charities Information Bureau as stating that it "does not know of any other charity that makes contributions to political parties."
Tax experts have warned that these contributions may be illegal, as charities are not allowed to make political donations. Marcus Owens, director of the IRS Exempt Organization Division also warned that: "The bottom line is campaign contributions will jeopardize a charity's exempt status."
The Foundation's board of trustees included corporate executives from the pharmaceutical, investment, banking, and media industries. Among them:
Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy had his "black list" of suspected communists and Richard Nixon his environmental activist "enemies list," so too, the ACS has maintained a "Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management" which periodically "reviews" unorthodox or alternative therapies. This Committee is comprised of "volunteer health care professionals," carefully selected proponents of orthodox, expensive, and usually toxic drugs patented by major pharmaceutical companies, and opponents of alternative or "unproven" therapies which are generally cheap, non-patentable, and minimally toxic.
Periodically, the Committee updates its statements on "unproven methods," which are then widely disseminated to clinicians, cheerleader science writers (such as Jane Brody, Gina Kolata, and Natalie Angier of the New York Times), and the public. Once a clinician or oncologist becomes associated with "unproven methods," he or she is blackballed by the cancer establishment. Funding for the accused "quack" becomes inaccessible, followed by systematic harassment.
The highly biased ACS witch-hunts against alternative practitioners is in striking contrast to its extravagant and uncritical endorsement of conventional toxic chemotherapy. This in spite of the absence of any objective evidence of improved survival rates or reduced mortality following chemotherapy for all but some relatively rare cancers.
In response to pressure from People Against Cancer, a grassroots group of cancer patients disillusioned with conventional cancer therapy, in 1986 some 40 members of Congress requested the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a Congressional think tank, to evaluate available information on alternative innovative therapies. While initially resistant, OTA eventually published a September 1990 report (available online at: http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/disk2/1990/9044_n.html ) that identified some 200 promising studies on alternative therapies. OTA concluded that NCI had "a mandated responsibility to pursue this information and facilitate examination of widely used 'unconventional cancer treatments' for therapeutic potential."
Yet, until very recently, the ACS and NCI remained resistant, if not frankly hostile, to OTA's recommendations. In the January 1991 issue of its Cancer Journal for Clinicians ACS referred to the Hoxsey therapy, a nontoxic combination of herb extracts developed in the 1940s by populist Harry Hoxsey, as a "worthless tonic for cancer." However, a detailed critique of Hoxsey's treatment by Dr. Patricia Spain Ward, a leading contributor to the OTA report, concluded just the opposite: "More recent literature leaves no doubt that Hoxsey's formula does indeed contain many plant substances of marked therapeutic activity."
Nor is this the first time that the Society's claims of quackery have been called into question or discredited. A growing number of other innovative therapies originally attacked by the ACS have recently found less disfavor and even acceptance. These include hyperthemia, Tumor Necrosis Factor, (originally called Coleys' Toxin), hydrazine sulfate, and Burzynski's antineoplastons. Well over 100 promising alternative non-patented and nontoxic therapies have already been identified. Clearly, such treatments merit clinical testing and evaluation by the NCI using similar statistical techniques and criteria as established for conventional chemotherapy. However, while FDA has approved approximately 40 patented drugs for cancer treatment, it has still not approved a single non-patented alternative drug.
Subsequent events further isolated the ACS in its fixation on orthodox as opposed to complementary alternative treatments. Bypassing the ACS and NCI, the National Institutes of Health in June 1992 opened a new Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) for the investigation of unconventional treatment of cancer and other diseases. Leading proponents of conventional therapy were invited to participate. ACS refused. NCI grudgingly and nominally participated while actively attacking alternative therapy with its widely circulated Cancer Information Services. Meanwhile, NCI's police partner, the FDA has used its enforcement authority against distributors and practitioners of innovative and nontoxic therapies.
In an interesting recent development, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. held a two day conference on "Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine." According to Dr. James Gordon, President of the Center and Chair of the Program Advisory Council of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine, the object of the conference was to bring together practitioners of mainstream and alternative medicine, together with cancer patients and high ranking officials of the ACS and NCI. Dr. Gordon warned alternative practitioners that "they're going to need to get more rigorous with their work -- to be accepted by the mainstream community." However, no such warning was directed at the highly questionable claims by NCI and ACS for the efficacy of conventional cancer chemotherapy. As significantly, criticism of the establishment's minimalistic priority for cancer prevention was effectively discouraged by Dr. Gordon. In the fall of 1998 OAM was upgraded by congress to an autonomous institute, "The National Center for Complimentary Alternative Medicine," forcing the ACS to cease attacks on cancer "quackery."
Promotions of the ACS continue to lure women of all ages into mammography centers, leading them to believe that mammography is their best hope against breast cancer. A leading Massachusetts newspaper featured a photograph of two women in their twenties in an ACS advertisement that promised early detection results in a cure "nearly 100 percent of the time." An ACS communications director, questioned by journalist Kate Dempsey, responded in an article published by the Massachusetts Women's Community Cancer Project:
The ad isn't based on a study. When you make an advertisement, you just say what you can to get women in the door. You exaggerate a point. . . . Mammography today is a lucrative (and) highly competitive business.
In addition, the mammography industry conducts research for the ACS and its grantees, serves on advisory boards, and donates considerable funds. DuPont also is a substantial backer of the ACS Breast Health Awareness Program; sponsors television shows and other media productions touting mammography; produces advertising, promotional, and information literature for hospitals, clinics, medical organizations, and doctors; produces educational films; and, of course, lobbies Congress for legislation promoting availability of mammography services. In virtually all of its important actions, the ACS has been strongly linked with the mammography industry, ignoring the development of viable alternatives to mammography.
The ACS exposes premenopausal women to radiation hazards from mammography with little or no evidence of benefits. The ACS also fails to tell them that their breasts will change so much over time that the "baseline" images have little or no future relevance. This is truly an American Cancer Society crusade. But against whom, or rather for whom?
The highly publicized "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month" campaign further illustrates these institutionalized conflicts of interest with the mammography and cancer drug industries. ACS and NCI representatives help sponsor promotional events, hold interviews, and stress the need for mammography every October. The flagship of this month-long series of events is National Mammography Day on October 17 in 1997. Conspicuously absent from the public relations campaign of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is any information on environmental and other avoidable causes of breast cancer. This is no accident. Zeneca Pharmaceuticals -- a spin-off of Imperial Chemical Industries, one of the world's largest manufacturers of chlorinated and other industrial chemicals, including those incriminated as causes of breast cancer -- has been the sole multimillion-dollar funder of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since its inception in 1984. Zeneca is also the sole manufacturer of tamoxifen, the world's top-selling anticancer and breast cancer "prevention" drug, with $400 million in annual sales. Furthermore, Zeneca recently assumed direct management of eleven cancer centers in United States hospitals. Zeneca owns a 50 percent stake in these centers known collectively as Salick Health Care, posing serious conflict's of interest.
The link between the ACS and NCI and Zeneca is especially strong when it comes to tamoxifen. The ACS and NCI continue aggressively to promote the tamoxifen trial, which is the cornerstone of its minimal prevention program. On March 7, 1997, the NCI Press Office released a four-page "For Response to Inquiries on Breast Cancer." The brief section on prevention reads:
Researchers are looking for a way to prevent breast cancer in women at high risk. . . . A large study (is underway) to see if the drug tamoxifen will reduce cancer risk in women age 60 or older and in women 35 to 59 who have a pattern of risk factors for breast cancer. This study is also a model for future studies of cancer prevention. Studies of diet and nutrition could also lead to preventive strategies.
Since Zeneca influences every leaflet, poster, publication, and commercial produced by National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is no wonder these publications make no mention of carcinogenic industrial chemicals and their relation to breast cancer. Imperial Chemical Industries, Zeneca's parent company, profits by manufacturing breast-cancer-causing chemicals. Zeneca profits from treatment of breast cancer, and hopes to profit still more from the prospects of large-scale national use of tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a masterful public relations coup for Zeneca, providing the company with valuable, if ill-placed, good will from millions of American women.
An earlier report, issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1989, "Intolerable Risk: Pesticides in our Children's Food," had also given pesticide manufacturers failing marks. The report was released in high profile testimony to Congress by movie actress Meryl Streep. A mother of young children, Streep explained to a packed House chamber the report's findings, namely, that children were most at risk from cancer-causing pesticides on our food because they consume a disproportionate amount of fruits, fruit juices, and vegetables relative to their size, and because their bodies are still forming.
Shortly before Koughan's program was due to air, a draft of the script was mysteriously leaked to Porter-Novelli, a powerful public relations firm for produce growers and the agrichemical industry. In true Washington fashion, Porter-Novelli plays both sides of the fence, representing both government agencies and the industries they regulate. Its client list in 1993 included Ciba-Geigy, DuPont, Monsanto, Burroughs Wellcome, American Petroleum Institute, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, Hoffman-LaRoche, Hoechst Celanese, Hoechst Roussel Pharmaceutical, Janssen Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, the Center for Produce Quality, as well as the USDA, the NCI, plus other National Institutes of Health.
Porter-Novelli first crafted a rebuttal to help the manufacturers quell public fears about pesticide-contaminated food. Next, Porter-Novelli called up another client, the ACS, for whom Porter-Novelli had done pro bono work for years. The rebuttal that Porter-Novelli had just sent off to its industry clients was faxed to ACS Atlanta headquarters. It was then circulated internationally by e-mail on March 22, 1993, virtually verbatim from the memo Porter-Novelli had crafted for a backgrounder for 3,000 regional ACS offices to have in hand to help field calls from the public after the show aired.
The program makes unfounded suggestions . . . that pesticide residue in food may be at hazardous levels," the ACS memo read. "Its use of a 'cancer cluster' leukemia case reports and non-specific community illnesses as alleged evidence of pesticide effects in people is unfortunate. We know of no community cancer clusters which have been shown to be anything other than chance grouping of cases and none in which pesticide use was confirmed as the cause.
This bold, unabashed defense of the pesticide industry, crafted by Porter-Novelli, was then rehashed a third time, this time by the right-wing group, Accuracy in Media. AIM's newsletter gleefully published quotes from the ACS memo in an article with the banner headline: "Junk Science on PBS." The article opened with "Can we afford the Public Broadcasting Service?" and went on to disparage Koughan's documentary on pesticides and children. "In Our Children's Food . . . exemplified what the media have done to produce these 'popular panics' and the enormously costly waste (at PBS) cited by the New York Times."
When Koughan saw the AIM article he was initially outraged that the ACS was being used to defend the pesticide industry. "At first, I assumed complete ignorance on the part of the ACS," said Koughan. But after repeatedly trying, without success, to get the national office to rebut the AIM article, Koughan began to see what was really going on. "When I realized Porter-Novelli represented five agrichemical companies, and that the ACS had been a client for years, it became obvious that the ACS had not been fooled at all," said Koughan. "They were willing partners in the deception, and were in fact doing a favor for a friend _ by flakking for the agrichemical industry."
Charles Benbrook, former director of the National Academy of Sciences Board of Agriculture, worked on the pesticide report by the Academy of Sciences that the PBS special would preview. He charged that the role of the ACS as a source of information for the media representing the pesticide and product industry was "unconscionable." Investigative reporter Sheila Kaplan, in a 1993 Legal Times article, went still further: "What they did was clearly and unequivocally over the line, and constitutes a major conflict of interest."
The launching of the 1971 War Against Cancer provided the ACS with a well-exploited opportunity to pursue it own myopic and self-interested agenda. Its strategies remain based on two myths -- that there has been dramatic progress in the treatment and cure of cancer, and that any increase in the incidence and mortality of cancer is due to aging of the population and smoking while denying any significant role for involuntary exposures to industrial carcinogens in air, water, consumer products and the workplace.
As the world's largest non-religious "charity," with powerful allies in the private and public sectors, ACS policies and priorities remain unchanged. In spite of periodic protests, threats of boycotts, and questions on its finances, the Society leadership responds with powerful PR campaigns reflecting denial and manipulated information, and pillorying its opponents with scientific McCarthyism.
The verdict is unassailable. The ACS bears a major responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer.